Sunday, May 29, 2005

Public Health Institute - Week One Review

Food Safety Risk Assessment:
This class was definately worth taking, and got me thinking a lot about all of the steps that our food goes through between where it begins and when it ends up in my tummy. We downloaded two programs as a part of the class, Analytica and @risk plugin for MS Excel. Sadly, due to poor planning on the part of the professors, the software wasn't really working until the third (out of four) day of class. We (my group) spent the 4 hour class creating a Risk Assessment using @risk for Campylobacter jejuni in broiler chicken in the United States using data from 2003. It was pretty awesome to see how the software worked once we finally got going. Sadly, we really only know how to use one function (Triangular Estimation) in @risk and none in Analytica. I see how they could both be really cool and useful too. We presented on Friday and and felt that we'd done very well.
I think everyone in the class felt really confused and like we hadn't learned anything until we got to the presentations on Friday. That's the point that we realized that we were able to stand in front of a 30 person class and describe a risk assessment plan without looking like a complete idiot!

Antimicrobial Resistance:
This class was awesome. Dr. Singer, aka "what did you just call me? my name is RANDY!", is a really awesome professor. Also, on the first day of a four day class he changed the grading policy! From an 8 page paper and a presentation on Friday to a 5 page paper only. It's a review paper on anything we want that relates to Antimicrobial Resistance, minimum 10 resources. I'm actually a tiny bit excited about writing it.
Cool topics we learned about: mechanisms of resistance, transmission of resistance, selection for resistance, cycling of antimicrobials, multi-drug therapy. Lots of group discussions and a ton o' fun. Met lots of cool people too :-D I'm having a really tough time making some of the connections that I know I need to make because I'm so caught up in what's going on right now, rather than the fact that I still need 115 hours of Public Health Field Experience and a Master's Project before I'm done. Goal for next summer: accomplish those things.

Global Food Systems: Dairy:
Really fun, mostly because I knew a lot of people on the trip and I made a couple of new friends. We went to a large-scale dairy farm (milking 2500 head), a small scale organic dairy farm (milks ~60 head I think), saw a couple of milk tank trucks, a dairy processing facility (Schroeders), got a talk from International Dairy Queen and another from Schwans. Overall, it was a good experience, though I'm still not sure where I stand on Organic farming. It's a good concept, I think, but in practice it looks very - rough? - to me.
Random fact: Schroeders manufactures everything Kosher by default (the rabbi was there when we were touring), and do a ton of stuff that we love. Support them! They make Rice Dream and the Soy Milk that we know and love. They are making that new line of Pomagranite juice (in 9 flavors) that looks tasty. Also, the plant is amazing, they treat their employees very well. They do a ton of allergen testing between lines. They do a ton of tests on the product to ensure safety. They are everything that you could want out of a plant that processes your liquids!

Thursday, May 12, 2005

End of Freshman Year - Fall Semester Review

It's been quite a school year, these past nine months. I have completed the first year curriculum at UMN and been successful.

Last semester I took what seemed like an impossible number of credits (22.5). Some of it was review, some of it was new. Some classes were interesting, some seemed like a waste of time. Sadly, it wasn't everything that was new that was interesting, nor was everything that was repetitive useless and boring. We took the basic sciences: Gross Anatomy, Radiographic Anatomy, Biochemistry, Cells and Tissues, Nutrition. We also took some classes that were supposed to help prepare us to be vets in the future, namely Clinical Skills and Professional Skills. Animal Populations is the class that doesn't fit into any good category, where we learned about everything from breeders to dairy farms: very exciting, I assure you. Then we got to take some electives if we chose (and of course I did). I took Neonatology (with the requirement of being on Foal Team at the hospital Spring semester) and Preparing and Teaching Puppy Classes (with the requirement of teaching puppy classes between last semester and this coming December).

I remember feeling last semester like I both had no time, and that I was not busy enough. I was one of those overachievers starting sometime in high school (some say even before). Last semester my sole commitment was attending school. Granted, there was a lot of school to take up my time. But at the same time I was making friends, creating relationships with clinicians and professors in the vet school, and maintaining my sanity and my relationship at home. It was the first time that I didn't have a concurrent job or research position, I wasn't an RA (and thus was really, truly only in charge of myself), and I wasn't on a million committees and committed to everything and everyone.

In law school, they say that the first year is the hardest because they're trying to scare you. In vet school, they never stop wishing that everything was as easy as it was freshman year. With a maximum of one exam a week, it was really quite a nice deal that we had going.

So why didn't I get straight A's? Pretty simple I guess - I chose to make those extra relationships, stay sane, and develop the non-academic parts of my career instead. I wish I had a better GPA, but I've been told over and over again three things:
1. C=DVM
2. It's not what you know, it's who you know.
3. Everything and anything that you need to know, will be repeated over and over and over and over throughout the four years in school.

I was pretty proud of my first semester of vet school for the most part. I could have done better (and I had several good cries over those grades), I could have made better friends, I could have gotten to know the city better. But overall, I feel like I survived with room to spare, and never for one moment was I in any danger of not being asked back for Spring semester. Though the fact that I still felt like I didn't have any true friends in Minnesota would be a recurring theme in the Spring semester.

And the Spring semester I will write about another time, when it's not so late out.

Sunday, May 08, 2005

My story

To start from the beginning:

I'm just finishing up my first year in the College of Veterinary Medicine at the University of Minnesota in Saint Paul. I have also recently been admitted to a Master's of Public Health program in Food Safety and Biosecurity. I'm not sure what I want to do when I graduate (in 2008), but I'm pretty sure that I can do just about anything with a combined DVM/MPH!

I'm interested in medicine on all animals, from pocket pets to cows. However, my current plan is to track for Small Animal and get some education on the side in large animals. Ideally, I would be able to concentrate on small animals (cats, dogs, pocket pets and exotics) with an aside towards small ruminants (sheep, goats, llamas, alpacas). I would also like to own my own horses someday, and being able to treat them myself is pretty important.

My current side projects include fostering kittens and helping out an extension veterinarian who owns a sheep farm on the weekends. I am also involved in Foal Team, where I am called in when a foal in the hospital needs extra care.

I am involved in a clinical study for Pfizer Pharmaceuticals this summer, working with Dr. Washabau doing Gastric Scintigraphy. This has been sucking up much of my time most recently, but once the study actually gets underway (and we aren't running all over doing prep) things should get more predictable and easier to cope with.

I hope to use this blog to chronicle my evolution into a veterinarian, answer any questions that people might have, and keep a record for myself. Time flies when you're busy all the time!